The renaissance lute came in several sizes, like its contemporaries the recorder and the viol. The historical alto lute has become the favoured size for modern lutenists, mostly because it can play in the commonly required g' tuning at modern pitch. Other sizes are rarely seen today. However, the 16th century lute family included several sizes with a total range of more than five octaves, all fully chromatic chordal instruments with a huge dynamic range, making the lute family the most versatile, as well as the most illustrious, ensemble at many renaissance courts. Chordophony plays on the only full, matched and scaled consort of lutes in the world. They were built by Ivo Magherini, after surviving originals from the Paduan workshop of Wendelin Tieffenbrucker (known as Venere). To date they include a 44cm treble, 59cm alto, 66cm tenor, 88cm bass, and a tiny 33cm liutino, surely the smallest lute on the concert platform!
Here are the treble, alto, tenor and bass lutes:
To give an idea of relative sizes, here is the bass shell during construction, with the completed treble lute sitting inside!
And Ivo playing the newly-completed soprano lute:
A Chordophony concert offers a unique opportunity to hear this most sumptuous and ravishing of renaissance consorts in its full glory!